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launch an attack, for the American guns opened "a hellish fire" (their targets spotted-as Lauchert later recalled-by five artillery planes). Then to top this came the P-38's and Typhoons. On nearby roads more Allied tanks hove in sight but made no concerted attack. Lauchert's group was saved by an order radioed from the XLVII Panzer Corps: he was to return to Rochefort at once; the troops in the pocket would have to destroy their vehicles, leave their wounded, and get out on foot. A Panzer Lehr attempt to reach the pocket via Custinne on 26 December was equally futile, and for the same reasons. Bayerlein's kampfgruppe-at no time in the battles on the Marche front did the Panzer Lehr commander have his entire division in hand-also was ordered back to Rochefort during the night of 26 December.

The story of the 2d Panzer pocket is quickly told. CCB spent two days clearing the thick woods and dense under- brush between Celles and Conjoux. The procedure was simple and effective: first, heavy shelling on a given area, then a slow, methodical advance by the infantry line backed with the tanks. In an extension of the Bois de Geauvelant, where tanks could operate with some freedom, an armored sweep was made which killed about 150 of the enemy. In the main forest near Celles a final squeeze produced 200 prisoners, 12 guns, and 80 vehicles of various types to add to the larger bag. Nonetheless many of the German troops did succeed in escaping on foot. Major von Cochenhausen and nearly 600 of his men ultimately reached Rochefort, but all the equipment of the reconnaissance battalion, the 304th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, the 2d Battalion of the 3d Panzer Regiment, three artillery battalions, and two-thirds of the division flak battalion had to be left behind. [12]

The Fight at Humain

The 2d Armored Division's "limited objective" attack, so carefully planned for Christmas Day, included a drive by CCA straight south from Buissonville on the paved highway to Rochefort, there to relieve the battalion of the 84th Division. This move never was carried through, although Harmon did not learn that the Rochefort troops had escaped until early afternoon. Instead CCA and the 4th Cavalry Group were caught up in a quite unexpected battle whose focal point was Humain, east of Buissonville. During the night of 24 December Troop A of the 24th Cavalry Squadron occupied Humain as an outpost for the CCA assembly area at Buissonville. But the troopers had short tenure in Humain, for across the lines the Panzer Lehr was gathering its few tanks to break the American stranglehold on the throat of the 2d Panzer spearhead. Bayerlein divided his Panthers into two assault groups: a platoon, supported by a rifle company, to seize Humain; a company, reinforced by an understrength rifle battalion, to drive on the left for Havrenne, then Buissonville.

The German blow struck Humain at first light, driving the cavalry out of town. The attack to the west rolled past the burned-out relics of the American

[12] The dramatic end of the hopes nourished for the 2d Panzer and Panzer Lehr find expression in very detailed recollections by Lauchert; Bayerlein, MSS # A-941, A-943, and A-944; and Luettwitz, MSS # A-938 and A-940.